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Bronco, Shadow of Jesse James

Ty Hardin as Bronco Layne on the Dingus ProjectTHE DINGUS PROJECT
Jesse James in Film #11

Who would expect to find a reasonably authentic portrayal of Jesse James in a TV-western, played by none other than James Coburn? Well it happened for a brief moment on the TV show "Bronco". Pop quiz: What was Ty Hardin’s real name? Answer: Orison Whipple Hungerford. No lie.

 

 

 

Bronco 1, Shadow of Jesse James (1960)
Ty Hardin, James Coburn, Richard Coogan, Jeanne Cooper
50 minutes, B&W

"You’ve never seen a twister, Mister, till you’ve seen him riled".
-- Bronco Layne Theme Song

Ty Hardin, Shadow of Jesse James on the Dingus ProjectOddly authentic, the TV-western Bronco – a spin-off of the show Cheyenne -- drew its inspiration from history, not myth. As a result, Jesse James is seen in this episode as a stone-cold bad guy who does not deserve to be remembered as a legend of the West. The narrator opens this episode of the TV western series like this:

"During the Civil War two battle flags symbolized honor, courage and devotion of the highest honor to the men who served under them. But there was another flag, the Black Flag of the Missouri guerilla fighters, that was followed by brutal savage men, led by such infamous killers as Quantrill, Bloody Bill Anderson, George Cox and Jesse James."

Fictional Confederate Captain "Bronco" Layne (Ty Hardin) meets up with bushwackers the Younger and James brothers. Bronco stops Jesse from killing a wounded Union soldier. But Bronco is unable to stop the murder of 26 unarmed Union soldiers in the Centralia Massacre. Even Cole Younger refuses to ride with Jesse James, played here with a touch of insanity by James Coburn. Three years pass. After the war, now a deputy marshal, Bronco is assigned to go after Jesse James, who has become a wanted outlaw..

Dingus

Cole Younger (Richard Coogan) and his brothers are living with Belle Starr (Jeanne Cooper). They welcome Bronco, unaware he is hunting "Dingus" for the law. They also hate the bloodthirsty Jesse James, but Cole blames himself for starting Jesse on the road to crime, and cannot bear to see him captured. Cole and Belle are preparing to get married, but Dingus shows up in time to spoil the plan. Bronco tries to arrest Jesse, but is wounded in the fracus.

Cole and Jesse take off for one more raid. Belle and Bronco, meanwhile, try to make a deal with a US marshal – pardon Cole and they’ll turn in Jesse James. Jesse tries to outsmart them all by raiding a different bank than planned – the Northfield Bank. But as history tells us, the Northfield Raid is the end of the line for the James-Younger gang. The Younger brothers are captured and serve 25 years in prison. "I shoulda killed that treacherous little rat a long time ago," the bullet-riddled Cole says as he is hauled off to jail.

Despite the insertion of the fictional Bronco Layne, the facts play out pretty accurately here. Jesse and brother Frank escape by leaving the Younger’s behind. The narrator reminds us Jesse James finally meets his fate a few years down the trail. The theme song swells up –

     Bronco Bronco 
     Tearing across the Texas plains
     Bronco Bronco
     Bronco Layne

Despite the 32-year old James Coburn playing a teenaged Jesse James, this quirky western is a rare attempt to tell history as it happened. The Bronco Layne series lasted four years. After a few Hollywood roles as a beefcake B-actor, Ty Hardin moved to Europe. He was popular in Germany, filmed the series Riptide in Australia and did spaghetti westerns. His best film role came in the dramatization of PT-109. According to online sources, Ty Hardin also organized and armed an anti-Semitic white-supremacy group in Texas and later ran into trouble with the IRS. He has been married at least five times and currently is focused on his "ministry" and his family, according to the official Ty Hardin web site.

Copyright © J. Dennis Robinson. All rights reserved. 

Dingus Project

 

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